Tải bản đầy đủ

Just around the corner


TheProjectGutenbergEBookofJustAroundtheCorner,byFannieHurst
ThiseBookisfortheuseofanyoneanywhereatnocostandwith
almostnorestrictionswhatsoever.Youmaycopyit,giveitawayor
re-useitunderthetermsoftheProjectGutenbergLicenseincluded
withthiseBookoronlineatwww.gutenberg.net

Title:JustAroundtheCorner
Romanceencasserole
Author:FannieHurst
ReleaseDate:July8,2010[EBook#33118]
Language:English

***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKJUSTAROUNDTHECORNER***

ProducedbySuzanneShell,SharonSkidmoreandtheOnline
DistributedProofreadingTeamathttp://www.pgdp.net


JUSTAROUNDTHECORNER


Frontispiece
"IT'SALLRIGHT,DEAREST;THISISYOURSURPRISE"
[Seepage28

TitlePage
JUSTAROUNDTHECORNER
ROMANCEencasserole
BY
FANNIEHURST
ILLUSTRATED
HARPER&BROTHERSPUBLISHERS
NEWYORKANDLONDON
MCMXIV


COPYRIGHT,1914,BYHARPER&BROTHERS

PRINTEDINTHEUNITEDSTATESOFAMERICA
PUBLISHEDSEPTEMBER,1914


CONTENTS
PAGE

POWERANDHORSE-POWER

1

OTHERPEOPLE'SSHOES

31

THEOTHERCHEEK

72

MARKEDDOWN

110


BREAKERSAHEAD

153

THEGOODPROVIDER

199

SUPERMAN

247

THEPARADISETRAIL

300

THESQUALL

329


ILLUSTRATIONS
"It'sAllRight,Dearest;ThisisYourSurprise"

Frontispiece

SheHeldUpaHandasLightasaLeaf,andHe
TookItinaWide,GentleClaspthat
EnvelopedIt

Facingp.290

"Hello!"HeWhispered,ExtendingBothHands
andSmilingatHeruntilallHisTeeth
Showed

"328

"IWentOvertoLoo's,andWeStayedUpand
TalkedSoLate—IDidn'tKnow—"

"360


JUSTAROUNDTHECORNER


POWERANDHORSE-POWER

I

NtheKnockerbeckHoteltherearevariousparlors;Pompeianroomslinedin
marbleandpillaredinchasteflutedcolumns;LouisQuinzecorners,gold-leafed
and pink-brocaded, principally furnished with a spindly-legged Vernis-Martin
cabinetandalargeFrenchclockintheformofacelestialspheresurmountedby
agoldcupid.
There are high-ceilinged rendezvous rooms, with six arm and two straight
chairschasedafterthemannerofGouthière,andaseriesofsmallinlaidwritingdesks,generouslyequippedforanavidiouspublictowhomthecrest-embossed
stationery of a four-dollar-a-day-up hotel suggests long-forgotten friends back
home.
Just off the lobby is the Oriental room, thick with arabesque hangings and
incenseanddistinguishedbythefamouspairofChinesefamillerosemandarin
jars, fifty-three inches high and enameled with Hoho birds and flowers. In
careful contrast the adjoining room, a Colonial parlor paneled in black walnut
and designed by a notorious architect, is ten degrees lower in temperature and
lightedbylargerectangularwindows,throughwhoseleadedpanesacheckered
patchofsunshinefiltersacrossthefloorforhalfanhoureachforenoon.
Then there is the manicure parlor, done in white tile, and stationary washstandsbytheHermanCaskyHygienicCompany,EighthAvenue.
The oracle of this particular Delphi was Miss Gertrude Sprunt, whiteshirtwaisted,smooth-haired,andcool-fingered.MissSpruntcouldtell,almostas
soonasyousteppedoutoftheelevatoroppositetheparlors,theshortestcutto
yourhandandheart;shecouldglanceatapairofcuffsandgivethefinger-nails
a correspondingly high or domestic finish, and could cater to the manicurial
whims of Fifth Avenue and Four Corners alike. After one digital treat at her
cleverhandsyouenlistedasoneofMissSprunt'sregulars.
This fact was not lost upon her sister worker, Miss Ethyl Mooney. "Say,
Gertie"—MissMooneytiedaperkylittleapronabouthertrimwaistandpatteda
bowintoplace—"isthereeveramornin'thatyouain'tbookedclearthroughthe


day?"
Miss Sprunt hung her flat sailor hat and blue jacket behind the door, placed
herhandsonherhips,glanceddownthelengthofhersveltefigure,yawned,and
pattedhermouthwithherhand.
"Not so you could notice it," she replied, in gapey tones. "I'm booked from
ninetoquittingjustsixdaysoftheweek;and,believeme,it'snotliketakingthe
restcure."
"I guess if I was a jollier like you, Gert, I'd have a waitin'-list, too, I wish I
couldgetontoyoursystem."
"MaybeIgivetradin'-stamps,"observedMissSprunt,flippantly.
"Yougive'emsomesortoflaughing-gas;butme,I'mofaretiringdisposition,
andInevercouldforcemyselfonnobody."
MissGertrudefleckedatherselfwithawhisk-broom.
"Don'tfeelbadaboutit,Ethyl;justkeepontrying."
MissEthylflushedangrily.
"Smarty!"shesaid.
"Iwasn'ttryingtobenasty,Ethyl—you'rewelcometoanappointmentevery
twentyminutessofarasI'mconcerned."
MissEthylappearedappeased.
"Youknowyourself,Gert,yougottawayaboutyou.Adollartipain'tnothin'
for you. But look at me—I've forgot there's anything bigger'n a quarter in
circulation."
"There's a great deal in knowing human nature. Why, I can almost tell a
fellow'sfirstnamebylookingathishalf-moons."
"Believe me, Gert, it ain't your glossy finish that makes the hit; it's a way
you'vegotofmakingafellowthinkhe'sthewholeshow."
"Idotrytomakemyselfagreeable,"admittedMissSprunt.
"Agreeable! You can look at a guy with that Oh-I-could-just-listen-to-you-


talk-for-everexpression,andby the timeyou'rethroughwithhimhe'llwant to
takehistensoutofthewaterandsignoverhisinsurancetoyou."
"Manicuringisabusinesslikeanythingelse,"saidMissSprunt,bynomeans
displeased."Yousuredohavetocatertothetrade."
"Well,believeme—"beganMissEthyl.
ButMissGertrudesuddenlystraightened,smiled,andturnedtowardhertable.
AcrossthehallMr.JamesBarker,therubbed-down,clean-shavenresultofa
Russianbath,aSwedishmassage,andabountifulAmericanbreakfast,stepped
outofaFrench-goldelevatorandenteredtheparlor.
MissSpruntplacedthebacksofherhandsonherhipsandcockedherheadat
theclock.
"Goodmorning,Mr.Barker;you'reontimetotheminute."
Mr. Barker removed his black-and-white checked cap, deposited three
morning editions of evening papers atop a small glass case devoted to the
display of Madame Dupont's beautifying cold-creams and marvelous cocoabutters,and rubbedhishandsswiftlytogether asifgeneratingaspark.Alarge
diamondmountedinacruellystretchedlion'smouthglintedonMr.Barker'sleft
hand;asisterstoneglowedlikeanacetylenelampfromhisscarf.
"Ontime,eh!LeaveittoyourUncleFullertobeontimeforthebigshow—a
prettygoilcandragmefromthehayquicker'nanythingIknowof."
Miss Gertrude quirked the corner of one eye at Miss Ethyl in a scarcely
perceptiblewinkandfilledaglassbowlwithwarmwater.
"That's one thing I will say for my regular customers—they never keep me
waiting;thatisthebeautyofhavingahigh-classtrade."
She glanced at Mr. Barker with pleasing insinuation, and they seated
themselvesvis-à-visatthelittletable.
Miss Sprunt surrounded herself with the implements of her craft—small
porcelain jars of pink and white cold-creams, cakes of powder in varying
degrees of pinkness, vials of opaque liquids, graduated series of files and
scissors,largeandsmallchamois-coveredbuffers,andlasttheroundglassbowl
oftepidwatercloudywithmeltingsoap.


Mr. Barker extended his large hand upon the little cushion and sighed in
satisfaction.
"Gotoit,sis—gimmeashinelikeawind-shield."
Sherestedhisfourheavyfingerslightlyinherpalm.
"You really don't need a manicure, Mr. Barker; your hands keep the shine
betterthanmost."
"Well,I'llbehanged—tryin'tolearnyourUncleFullerwhentohavehisown
handspolished!Canyoubeatit?"Mr.Barker'ssteel-blueshavedfacewidenedto
abroadgrin."Say,you'reagoilaftermyownheart—aregularlittlesixty-horsepowerqueen."
"Iwasn'tbornyesterday,Mr.Barker."
"Iknowyouwasn't,butyoucan'tbluffmeoff,kiddo.Youdon'tneedtogive
me no high-power shine if you don't want to, but I've got one dollar and forty
minutes'worthofyourtimecornered,justthesamey."
MissSpruntdippedhishandsintotepidwater.
"IknewwhatIsaidwouldnotfrightenyouoff,Mr.Barker.Iwouldn'thave
saiditifIthoughtitwould."
Mr.Barkerguffawedwithgusto.
"Canyoubeatthewimmin?"hecried."Canyoubeatthewimmin?"
"Youwantahighpinkfinish,don'tyou,Mr.Barker?"
"Goasfarasyoulike,sis;give'emtomeaspinkandshinyasababy'sheel."
MissSpruntgougedoutafinger-tipofpinkcreamandapplieditlightlytothe
severalmembersofhisrighthand.Hertouchwassureandswift.
Heregardedherwithfranklyadmiringeyes.
"You'resomelittlegoil,"hesaid;"youcantellmewhatIwantbetterthanI
knowmyself."
"That'seasy;thereisn'tabrokerinNewYorkwhodoesn'twantahighpink
finish,and I've beendoingbrokers,actors,millionaires,bankclerks,andSixth


Avenueswellsinthishotelforthreeyears."
Helaugheddelightedly,hiseyesalmostdisappearingbehindafretworkoffine
wrinkles.
"WhatmakesyouknowI'matape-puller,kiddo?Durnedifyouain'tgotmy
numberbetterthanIgotitmyself."
"I can tell a broker from a business man as easy as I can tell a five-carat
diamondfromagilt-edgebond."
Heslidfartherdownonhischairandregardedherwithgenuineapproval.
"Say,kiddo,I'vebeenallroundtheworld—tookatripthroughEgyptinmy
carlastspringthatIcouldwriteabookabout;butIain'tseennothin'intheway
ofskirtsthatcouldtouchyouwithaten-footrod."
Sheflushed.
"Oh,youfellowsaresuchjolliers!"
"Onthelevel,kiddo,you'repreferredstockallright,andI'dbewillin'totakea
flyeranytime."
"Say,Mr.Barker,you'dbetterquitstirringthecandy,oritwillturntosugar."
"Lemmetellyou,MissGertie,Iain'tguyin',andI'llproveittoyou.I'mgoin'
to take you out in the swellest little ninety-horse-power speedwagon you ever
seen; if you'll gimme leave I'll set you and me up to-night to the niftiest little
dinner-partyontheisland,eh?"
Shefiledrapidlyathisthumb,bringingthenailtoapointedapex.
"I'mverycarefulaboutacceptinginvitations,Mr.Barker."
"Don't you think I can tell a genteel goil when I see her? That's why I ain't
askedyououtthefirsttimeIseenyou."
Shekepthereyeslowered.
"Ofcourse,sinceyouputitthatway,I'llbepleasedtoacceptyourinvitation,
Mr.Barker."
Hestruckthetablewithhisfreehand.


"You're a live un, all right. How about callin' round fer you at six this
evenin'?"
Shenoddedassent.
"Goodgoil!We'llkeepthespeedometerbusy,allright!"
She skidded the palms of her hands over his nails. "There," she said, "that's
notabadshine."
Hestraightenedhishandsoutbeforehimandregardedtheminmockscrutiny.
"Those are some classy grabbers," he said; "and you're some classy little
woiker."
Hewatchedherreplacethecrystalstoppersintheirseveralbottlesandfither
various commodities into place. She ranged the scissors and files in neat
graduatedrowsandblewpowderparticlesoffthecoverwithprettilypursedlips.
"That'llbeaboutall,Mr.Barker."
Heambledreluctantlyoutfromhischair.
"You'llbehereatsix,then?"
"WillIbehereatsix,sis?Say,willafishswim?"
He fitted his cap carefully upon his head and pulled the vizor low over his
eyes.
"So long, kiddo!" He crossed the marble corridor, stepped into the gold
elevator,thefiligreedoorsnappedshut,andheshotupward.
MissEthylwaitedamomentandthenpitchedhervoicetoacarefulnoteof
indifference.
"I'llbetthemillion-dollarkidaskedyoutoelopewithhim."
Miss Gertrude tilted her coiffure forward and ran her amber back-comb
throughherfronthair.
"No," she said, with the same indifference, "he didn't ask me to elope with
him;hejustwantedtoknowifI'dtourHesterStreetwithhiminhiscanoe."
"I don't see no medals on you fer bein' the end man of the minstrel show.


Don'tletaboattriptoConeygotoyourhead;youmightgetbrain-fever."
GertrudeSpruntcasthereyesceilingward.
"Well,onegoodthing,yourbrainwillnevercauseyouanytrouble,Ethyl."
"Lord,Gert,cutouttheairs!Youain'tlivin'intherosesuiteonthetenthfloor;
you're only applyin' nail-polishes and cuticle-lotions down here in the
basement."
"There's something else I'm doing, too," retorted Miss Gertrude, with
unruffledamiability."I'mmindingmyownaffairs."
They fell to work again after these happy sallies, and it was late afternoon
beforetherecameawelcomelull.
"Who'syourlast,Gert?"
"Mr. Chase." There were two red spots of excitement burning on Miss
Sprunt'scheeks,andhereyesshowedmoreblackthanblue.
"NotthatlittleguywiththeNow-I-lay-me-down-to-sleepface?Takeitfrom
me,he'sabankclerkoralibraryguy.ThankHeaven,Iain'tgotnocheapskates
onmystaff!"
MissGertrudeflusheduptohereyes.
"Hemaybeaclerk,but—"
Mr.Chaseenteredquietly.Therewasagentle,evenshrinkingsmileuponhis
features,andhecarriedasmallofferingcoveredwithpurpletissue-paper,which
heplacednervouslyupontheedgeofthetable.
"Good afternoon, Miss Sprunt." He pushed the greeting toward her. "May I
hopethatyouwillacceptthese?"
"Oh,Mr.Chase,aren'tyougood?"Theveryqualityofhervoicewassuddenly
different,likethesofteningofaviolinnotewhenyoumutethestrings.
Hedrewhischairuptothetablewiththequietsatisfactionofamanreadyfor
awell-meritedmeal.
"Youandvioletsareinseparableinmymind,MissSprunt,becauseyouboth
suggestthespring."


She laughed in low, rich tones, and her shirtwaist rose and fell rapidly from
shortbreathing.
"Why,"shesaid,"that'stheverynicestthinganyoneeversaidtome!"
Hishand,long-fingeredandvirile,droopedovertheedgeofthebowlintothe
warmwater;heleanedforwardwithhischestagainstthelineofthetable.
"Whatdoyoumean,MissSprunt?"
Shetookhisdrippinghandfromthewateranddriedeachfingerseparately.
"If you had been doing high pink finishes for three years you'd know the
differencewhenadullwhitecamealong—I—Imean,I—"
Hesmoothedawayherembarrassmentwitharaillery:"Byyourpolishshall
yebeknown."
"Yes," she replied, with more seriousness than banter; "that's exactly what I
mean.I'mnotusedtomenwhosepolishextendsbeyondtheirfinger-nails."
Sheworkedwithherheadbentlow,andheregardedtheshiningcoilsofher
hair.
"Howdrollyouare!"hesaid.
Shepushedbackthehalf-moonsofhisfingerswithanorangestickdippedin
cold-cream.
"Yououghttowatchyourcuticle,Mr.Chase,andbemoreregularaboutthe
manicures.Yourhandsaremoredelicatethanmost."
Hestarted.
"OfcourseIshouldpaymoreattentiontothem,butI'mprettybusyand—and
—"
"OfcourseIunderstandmanicuresareexpensiveluxuriesthesedays."
"Yes."
"I have become so accustomed to hotel trade that I forgot that some hands
maybeearningsalariesinsteadofdrawingincomes."
Hermannerwasunobtrusive,andhelaughedquietly.


"Youarequiteastudentoftypes,MissSprunt."
"Wouldn'tIhavetobe,Mr.Chase,medoingasmanyasahundredfingersa
day,andsomethingdifferentcomingwitheachtenofthem?"
"Youaredelightful,"hesaid,lettinghisamusedeyesrestuponher;"butIfear
you'vemysteriousmethodsofdivination."
"Oh,Idon'tknow,"shesaid,airily."Justtakeyou,forexample.Idon'tneed
an X-ray to see that there isn't a Fifth Avenue tailor sign stitched inside your
coat. It doesn't take any mind-reader to know that you come in from the Sixth
Avenueentranceandnotfromtheelevator.Besides,whenyoucometoliveina
lobster palace you usually have your claws done to match your shell. I'd have
givenyouadullwhitefinishwithoutyourevenaskingforit."
"IseewhereIstandwithyou,MissSprunt."
"Oh,itisn'tthat,Mr.Chase.Iguess,ifthetruthwasknown,thecrawfishstand
betterwithmethanthelobsters."
Mr.Chase'sfingersclosedlightlyoverhers.
"Ibelieveyoumeanwhatyousay,"hesaid.
"You bet your life I do!" she said, emphasizing each word with a buff. She
lookedup,methisinsistenteyes,andlaughedinahigh,unnaturalpitch."Other
hand,please,"shewhispered.
When he finally rose to depart she rose with him, holding her nosegay at
arm's-lengthandtiltingherhead.
"It'salmosttimeforwoodviolets,MissSprunt.I'lltrytogetyousome."
"Oh,don'ttrouble,Mr.Chase;thesehothouseonesarebeauties."
"I—I'll be dropping in soon again, Miss Sprunt. I think I'll take your advice
andbemoreregularaboutmymanicures."
"Oh," she said, in some confusion, "I—I didn't mean that. You can care for
theminbetweentimesyourself."
AttheSixthAvenueexithepaused.
"Goodnight,"hesaid,slowly.


"Goodnight,"sheresponded,herlipswarmandpartedlikeachild's.
When the click of his footsteps had echoed down the marble corridor Miss
Ethyl crossed the room and indulged in several jerky sniffs at the little floral
offering. "Well, whatta you know about that little tin Willie, bringin' a goil
violets in May? You better stick to the million-dollar kid, Gert; he's the
strawberries-in-Decemberbrand."
ForonceMissGertrudedidnotretort;hereyes,fullofdreams,weregazing
pastthedoorwaywhichhadsorecentlyframedthemodestfigureofMr.Chase.
PromptlyatsixMr.Barkerappearedforhisappointment.Hebespokethelast
wordandepilogueinsartorialperfection—hissuitwasatrifletoobrownanda
trifletoocreasedandhiscarnationabittoolarge,butheradiatedgoodcheerand
perfume.
MissEthylnudgedMissGertrudeexcitedly.
"Pipetherig,Gert;hemakesyoulooklikeaholeinadoughnut."
Heentered,suaveasoil.
"Well,sis,ready?"
"Oh,Mr.Barker,you'realldressedup—andlookatme.I—"
"Ah-h-h, how do you like it? Some class, eh? Guess your Uncle Fuller ain't
somehit—brand-newgearfromtonneautorearwheels."
Mr.Barkercircumvolvedononeheel,holdinghiscoat-tailsapart.
"Iblewmerightferthisoutfit;butit'swoiththemoney,sis."
"IfIhadknownI'dhavegonehomeanddressedup,too."
"Well,whattayouknowaboutthat?"exclaimedMr.Barker,observingherup
anddown."Thatthereshroudyou'rewearingisasclassyasanythingI'veseen
upinthelobbyoranyplaceelse,andI'vebeenallroundthewoildsome,too.I
knowtherealthingfromthesecondseverytime."
MissGertrudeworkedintohergloves.
"Iguessitismorebecomingforagirllikemetogoplainly."


"Believeme,kiddo"—Mr.Barkerplacedhishandblinker-fashionagainstthe
sideofhismouth,andhislipstookonanobliqueslant—"takeitfromme,kiddo,
when it comes to real feet-on-the-fender comfort, a nineteen-fifty suit with a
extrypairofpantsthrownincanmakethisrigfeellikeabustedtire."
"Well,Mr.Barker,I'mreadyifyouare."
He swung one arm akimbo with an outward circular movement, clicked his
heels together, and straightened his shoulders until his speckled white vest
swelled.
"Hitchon,sis,andlet'sshowBroadwaywe'reintown!"
Gertrudetookapinchofsleevebetweenherglovedfingers;theyfellintostep.
Atthedoorsheturnedandnoddedoveroneshoulder.
"Goodnight,Ethyldear,"shesaid,atrifletoosweetly.
A huge mahogany-colored touring-car caparisoned in nickel and upholstered
indarkerredpantedandchuggedattheBroadwaycurb.Mr.Barkerhelpedher
intothefrontseat,swunghimselfbehindthesteering-wheel,coveredthemover
withastripedrug,andturnedhisshiningmonsterintothefluxofBroadway.
Miss Gertrude leaned her head back against the upholstery and breathed a
deep-seated,satisfiedsigh.
"This,"shesaid,"iswhatIcallliving."
Mr.Barkergrinnedandletoutfivemilesmoretothehour.
"Iguessthisain'tgottheSixthAvenue'L'skinnedamile!"
"Twomiles,"shesaid.
"Honest,sis,IcouldbearrestedforwhatIthinkofthe'L.'"
"Iknowthefurnishingofeverythird-floorfrontontheline,"shereplied,with
adrearyattemptatjocoseness.
"Nevermind,kiddo,I'vegotmyeyeonyou,"hesang,quotingfromastreet
songofthehour.
Theyspedonsilently,thewindsingingintheirears.


"Wanttheshieldup?"
"Thewhat?"
"Theglassfront."
"No,thankyou,Mr.Barker;thisairisgood."
"Thisoldwagoncaneatupthemiles,allright,eh?ShetouredEgyptfertwo
monthsandneverturnedanankle."
"Tothinkofhavingtraveledasyouhave."
"Me,I'mthebestlittletraveleryoueverseen.MorethanonceIdrovethiscar
upamountainside.Holdyourhat—heregoes,kiddo."
"I guess you'll think I'm slow, but this is the first time I've been in an
automobile, except once when I was sent for in a taxi-cab for a private
manicure."
"Youthinkyoucouldgetusedtomine,kiddo?"Henudgedherelbowwithhis
freearm;shedrewherselfbackagainstthecushions.
"ThewayIfeelnow,"shesaid,closinghereyes,"Icouldridethiswayuntil
thecrackofdoom."
Theydrewupbeforeaflaring,electric-lightedcaféwithanawningextending
fromtheentranceouttothecurb.Afootmanswungopenthedoor,adoorman
relieved Mr. Barker of his hat and light overcoat, a head waiter steered them
through an Arcadia of palms, flower-banked tables, and small fountains to a
mirrored corner, a lackey drew out their chairs, a pantry boy placed crisp rolls
andsmallpatsofsweetbutterbesidetheirplatesandfilledtheirtumblerswith
water from a crystal bottle, a waiter bent almost double wrote their order on a
silver-mounted pad, and music faint as the symphony of the spheres came to
themfromasmallgoldbalcony.
MissGertruderemovedherglovesthoughtfully.
"ThatiswhatIcallliving,"sherepeated.Sheleanedforward,herelbowson
the table, and the little bunch of violets at her belt worked out and fell to the
floor.Anattendantsprangtorecoverthem.
"Let'emgo,"saidBarker.Hedrewaheavy-headedrosefromtheembankment


betweenthemandwipeditswetstem."Here'saposythat'sgotthembeatright."
Shetookitandpinneditatherthroat."Thanks,"shesaid,glancingabouther
withglowing,interestedeyes.
"ThisplacemakesRuney'slunch-roomlooklikeatwo-weeks-oldmanicure."
"ItoldyouIwasgoin'toshowyouthetimeofyourlife,didn'tI?Anygoil
thatgoesoutwithmeain'twithapiker."
"Gee!"saidGertrude;"ifEthylcouldonlyseemenow!"
Shesippedherwater,andtheicetinkledagainstthefrailsidesofthetumbler.
A waiter swung a silver dome off a platter and served them a steaming and
unpronounceable delicacy; a woman sang from the small gold balcony—life,
wine,andjewelssparkledalike.
A page with converging lines of gilt balls down the front of his uniform
passedpicturepost-cards,showingthecafé,fromtabletotable.Gertrudeasked
foralead-pencilandwroteonetoacousininMontana,andMr.Barkersigned
hisnamebeneathhers.
TheydalliedwithpinkicesandFrenchpastries,andheloudlyrequestedthe
bestcigarintheplace.
"It'sall inknowin'howtolive,"heexplained."I'vebeenalloverthewoild,
andthereain'tmuchIdon'tknoworain'tseen;butyougottaknowtherightway
togoaboutthings."
"Anybodycouldtellbylookingatyouthatyouareamanoftheworld,"said
MissGertrude.
Itwaseleveno'clockwhentheyenteredthecarforthehomewardspin.The
coolairblewcolorandverveintoherface;andherhair,respondingtothenight
damp,curledinlittlegrape-vinetendrilsroundherface.
"You'resomeswelllittlegoil,"remarkedMr.Barker,acigarhungidlefrom
onecornerofhismouth.
"Andyouaresomedriver!"sheretorted."Yourunacarlikearealchauffeur."
"I wouldn't own a car if I couldn't run it myself," he said. "I ran this car all
throughFrancelastfall.Thereain'tnofunbein'steeredlikeamollycoddle."


"Noonecouldeveraccuseyouofbeingamollycoddle,Mr.Barker."
He turned and loosened the back of her seat until it reclined like a Morris
chair."Myowninvention,"hesaid;"toliebackandwatchthestarsonaclear
nightsortof—ofgivesyouahunchwhat'sgoin'onupthere."
Shelookedathiminsomesurprise."You'reclever,allright,"shesaid,rather
seriously.
"Waittillyouknowmebetter,kiddo.I'lllearnyouawholelotaboutmethat'll
surpriseyou."
His hand groped for hers; she drew it away gently, but her voice was also
gentle:
"Herewearehome,Mr.Barker."
In front of her lower West Side rooming-house he helped her carefully to
alight,regardinghersententiouslyintheflareofthestreetlamp.
"You'remystyle,allright,kiddo.Myspeedometerregistersyouprettyhigh."
Shegiggled.
"I'mheretotellyouthatyoulookgoodtome,and—and—I—anythingonfer
to-morrownight?"
"No,"shesaid,softly.
"Areyouon?"
Shenodded.
"I'lldropinandseeyouto-morrow,"hesaid.
"Good,"shereplied.
"Ifnothin'unexpectedcomesupto-morrownightwe'lltakeoneswellspinout
alongtheHudsonDriveandhavedinnerattheVista.There'ssomeswellscenery
out along the Palisade drive when the moon comes up and shines over the
water."
"Oh,Mr.Barker,thatwillbeheavenly!"
"I'msomeonthesoft-soapstuffmyself,"hesaid.


"You'refullofsurprises,"sheagreed.
"I'lldropinandseeyouto-morrow,kiddo."
"Goodnight,"shewhispered.
"Goodnight,littlesis,"hereplied.
Theypartedwithafinalhand-shake;assheclimbeduptoherroomsheheard
themachinechugaway.
Theperfumeofherrosefloatedaboutherlikeadelicatemist.Sheundressed
andwenttobedintoadream-worldofshimmeringwomenandhiddenmusic,a
worldchieflypeopledbydeferentialwaitersandscrapinglackeys.Allthenight
throughshespedinasilentmahogany-coloredtouring-car,withthewindsinging
inherearsandlightsflashingpastlikemeteors.

WhenMissGertrudearrivedattheKnockerbeckparlorsnextmorningalittle
violetofferingwrappedinwhitetissue-paperlayonherdesk.Theywerefresh
woodviolets,coolanddampwithdew.Sheflushedandplacedtheminasmall
glassvasebehindthecold-creamcase.
Her eyes were blue like the sky when you look straight up, and a smile
trembledonherlips.TenminuteslaterMr.Barker,dust-begrimedandenveloped
inalonglinenduster,swaggeredin.Hepeeledoffhisstoutgloves;hisfingers
wereblack-rimmedandgrease-splotched.
"Mornin',sis;here'safinejobforyou.Tookanunexpectedbusinesstripten
milesout,andthebloomin'spark-pluggottocuttin'uplikeabalkyhorse."
HecrammedhisglovesandgogglesintospaciouspocketsandlookedatMiss
Gertrudewithwarmingeyes.
"Durnedifyouain'tlookin'pertasamornin'-gloryto-day!"
Shetookhisfingersonherhandandregardedthemreprovingly.
"Shame on you, Mr. Barker, for getting yourself so mussed up!" cried Miss


Sprunt.
"LookslikeIneedsomebodytotakecareofme,doanit,sis?"
"Yes,"sheagreed,unblushingly.
Onceinwarmwater,hishandsexudedtheodorofgasolene.Shesniffedlikea
horsescentingtheturf.
"I'd rather have a whiff of an automobile," she remarked, "than of the best
attarofrosesonthemarket."
"Youain'tforgotaboutto-night,sis?"
Sheloweredhereyes.
"No,Ihaven'tforgotten."
"There ain't nothin' but a business engagement can keep me off. I gotta big
dealon,andImaybetoobusyto-night,butwe'llgoto-morrowsure."
"That'llbeallright,Mr.Barker;businessbeforepleasure."
"I'm pretty sure it'll be to-night, though. I—I don't like to have to wait too
long."
Hereachedacrossthetablesuddenlyandgrippedholdofherworkingarm.
"Say,kiddo,Ilikeyou."
"Silly!"shesaid,softly.
"Iain'tfoolin'."
"I'llbereadyatsix,"shesaid,lightly."Ifyoucan'tcomeletmeknow."
"Iain'tthesorttodothingssnide,"hesaid."IfIcan'tcomeI'llputyouwise,
allright."
"Youcertainlyknowhowtotreatagirl,"shesaid.
"Letmegettolikin'agoil,andthereain'tnothin'Iwon'tdoforher."
"Yousurecanrunamachine,Mr.Barker."
"YouwaittillIletloosesomespeedalongtheHudsonroad,andthenyou'll


seesomerealdrivin';lastnightwasn'tnothin'."
"Oh,Mr.Barker!"
"CallmeJim,"hesaid.
"Jim,"sherepeated,softly,afterhim.
The day was crowded with appointments. She worked unceasingly until the
nerves at the back of her head were strained and aching, and tired shadows
appearedunderhereyes.Thelanguorofspringoppressedher.
To her surprise, Mr. Chase appeared at four o'clock. At the sight of him the
point of her little scissors slipped into the unoffending cuticle of the hand she
wasgrooming.Shemotionedhimtoachairalongthewall.
"Injustafewminutes,Mr.Chase."
"Thank you," he replied, seating himself and watching her with interested,
near-sightedeyes.
A nervousness sent the blood rushing to her head. The low drone of Ethyl's
voice talking to a customer, the tick of the clock, the click and sough of the
elevatorwerethricemagnified.Shecouldfeelthegushofcolortoherface.
The fat old gentleman whose fingers she had been administering placed a
generousbonusonthetableandambledout.Sheturnedherburningeyesupon
Mr. Chase and spoke slowly to steady her voice. She was ashamed of her
unaccountablenervousnessandofthesuffocatingdrynessinherthroat.
"Readyforyou,Mr.Chase."
He came toward her with a peculiar slowness of movement, a characteristic
slownesswhichwasoneofthetrivialthingswhichburnedhisattractivenessinto
her consciousness. In the stuffiness of her own little room she had more than
onceclosedhereyesanddeliberatelypicturedhimashecametowardhertable,
gentleyeteager,withadeferencewhichwasnewasitwasdelightfultoher.
As he approached her she snapped a flexible file between her thumb and
forefinger,andwatcheditvibrateandcometoajerkystop;thenshelookedup.
"Goodafternoon,Mr.Chase."
"Goodafternoon,MissSprunt.Yousee,Iamfollowingyouradvice."Hetook


thechairoppositeher.
"I—Iwanttothankyoufortheviolets.TheyarethefirstrealhintofMayI've
had."
"Youknewtheycamefromme?"
"Yes."
"How?"
"Why—I—why,Ijustknew."
Shecoveredherconfusionbyremovingandreplacingcrystalbottle-stoppers.
"I'mgladthatyouknewtheycamefromme,MissSprunt."
"Yes,Iknewthattheycouldcomefromnoonebutyou—theyweresosimple
andnaturaland—sweet."
Shelaughedapitchtoohighandplungedhisfingersintowatersomedegrees
toohot.Hedidnotwince,butshedid.
"Oh,Mr.Chase,forgiveme.I—I'vescaldedyourfingers."
"Why," he replied, not taking his eyes from her face, "so you have!" They
bothlaughed.
Across the room Miss Ethyl coughed twice. "I always say," she observed to
hercustomer,"aworkin'-girlcan'tbetoocarefulofheractions.That'swhyIam
ofaretiringdispositionanddon'ttrytoforcemyselfonnobody."
Mr. Chase regarded the shadows beneath Miss Sprunt's eyes with a pucker
betweenhisown.
"Youdon'tgetmuchofthespringtimeinhere,doyou,MissSprunt?"
"No,"shereplied,smilingfaintly."Theonlywaywecantelltheseasonsdown
hereisbythemidwinterElksconventionandthecloakdrummerswhocometo
buyfurcoatsinJuly."
"You poor little girl," he said, slowly. "What you need is air—good,
wholesomeair,andplentyofit."
"Oh,Igetalongallright,"shesaid,bitingathernetherlip.


Tài liệu bạn tìm kiếm đã sẵn sàng tải về

Tải bản đầy đủ ngay

×